Genetic Background of Epilepsy and Antiepileptic Treatments

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Nov 14;24(22):16280. doi: 10.3390/ijms242216280.


Advanced identification of the gene mutations causing epilepsy syndromes is expected to translate into faster diagnosis and more effective treatment of these conditions. Over the last 5 years, approximately 40 clinical trials on the treatment of genetic epilepsies have been conducted. As a result, some medications that are not regular antiseizure drugs (e.g., soticlestat, fenfluramine, or ganaxolone) have been introduced to the treatment of drug-resistant seizures in Dravet, Lennox-Gastaut, maternally inherited chromosome 15q11.2-q13.1 duplication (Dup 15q) syndromes, and protocadherin 19 (PCDH 19)-clusterig epilepsy. And although the effects of soticlestat, fenfluramine, and ganaxolone are described as promising, they do not significantly affect the course of the mentioned epilepsy syndromes. Importantly, each of these syndromes is related to mutations in several genes. On the other hand, several mutations can occur within one gene, and different gene variants may be manifested in different disease phenotypes. This complex pattern of inheritance contributes to rather poor genotype-phenotype correlations. Hence, the detection of a specific mutation is not synonymous with a precise diagnosis of a specific syndrome. Bearing in mind that seizures develop as a consequence of the predominance of excitatory over inhibitory processes, it seems reasonable that mutations in genes encoding sodium and potassium channels, as well as glutamatergic and gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) receptors, play a role in the pathogenesis of epilepsy. In some cases, different pathogenic variants of the same gene can result in opposite functional effects, determining the effectiveness of therapy with certain medications. For instance, seizures related to gain-of-function (GoF) mutations in genes encoding sodium channels can be successfully treated with sodium channel blockers. On the contrary, the same drugs may aggravate seizures related to loss-of-function (LoF) variants of the same genes. Hence, knowledge of gene mutation-treatment response relationships facilitates more favorable selection of drugs for anticonvulsant therapy.

Keywords: gene variants; genotype–phenotype correlation; genotype–treatment response relationship; rare epilepsies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Epilepsy* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy* / genetics
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / drug therapy
  • Fenfluramine
  • Genetic Background
  • Humans
  • Seizures / drug therapy


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Fenfluramine